A third provision in the omnibus spending bill requires federal officials to destroy background-check approval records on gun purchases within 24 hours of the purchase. The current law requires the records be kept for 90 days. We host a debate between the National Rifle Association and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. [includes transcript]
Another part of the omnibus spending bill requires federal officials to destroy background-check approval records on gun purchases within 24 hours of the purchase. The current law requires the records be kept for 90 days.
Opponents of the measure say it would make it harder to track guns used in crimes, investigate shady gun dealers, or even track down someone plotting a terror attack who might buy guns in the United States.
Backers say record destruction will not hamper law enforcement, but will protect gun owners’ privacy. At a December 2001 hearing, Attorney General John Ashcroft declared that FBI checks of gun records into foreigners being detained on suspicion of possible connections to the September 11 hijackers would "violate their privacy."
Law enforcement groups across the country oppose the gun purchase measure. Los Angles Police Commissioner William Bratton said, "I just don’t understand how Congress members can even consider it. Obviously they haven’t shown up at the scene of enough officer shootings."
- Eric Howard, spokesman for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence united with the Million Mom March.
- Andrew Arulanandam, Director of Public Affairs for the National Rifle Association which is backing the amendment.
AMY GOODMAN: As we move now to another part of the omnibus spending bill, which requires federal officials to destroy background check approval records on gun purchases within 24 hours of the purchase. The current law requires records to be kept for 90 days.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Opponents say it would make it harder to track guns used in crimes, investigate shady gun dealers or even track down someone plotting a terror attack who might buy guns in the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: Backers say record destruction will not hamper law enforcement but will protect gun owner’s privacy. At a December 2001 hearing, Attorney General John Ashcroft declared F.B.I. checks of gun records on foreigners detained in suspicion of possible connection to the September 11th hijackers would quote: "violate their privacy."
JUAN GONZALEZ: Law enforcement groups across the country opposed the gun purchase measure. Los Angeles police commissioner, William Bratten said, quote; "I just don’t understand how congress can even consider it. Obviously, they haven’t shown up at the scene of enough officer shootings."
AMY GOODMAN: We are joined by Eric Howard, spokesman for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Andrew Arulanandam, he is director of public affairs from the National Rifle Association backing the amendment. Let’s start with Andrew Arulanandam. Why do you like it?
ANDREW ARULANANDAM: Well, I think there needs to be several clarifications. First of all, the universe of records that are in question over here are the approvals, hence, they are the records of law abiding Americans. The National Rifle Association has no problem with law enforcement maintaining the records of those disapprovals, hence those criminals, for as long as law enforcement needs them. Again these are records of law abiding Americans and they should be destroyed according to the law, which you erroneously stated stipulates that they should be kept for 90 days. The law states that this is the national instant check system with an emphasis on instant. The law intended for all records of law abiding Americans to be destroyed as soon as the approval came through. This 90-day stipulation is just a hangover from the Clinton administration.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Eric Howard, your response?
ERIC HOWARD: That is not true, actually. The N.R.A. Tried filing a lawsuit and lost on the argument he is making right now that that is not the case for holding it for 90 days.
ANDREW ARULANANDAM: What lawsuit are you referring to?
ERIC HOWARD: I’m talking about the one that you brought up originally when the records were kept for much longer than they are right now and you lost on that.
ANDREW ARULANANDAM: But if you look at the law under the national instant check system, which is part of the Brady bill which you should be very familiar with.
ERIC HOWARD: Right, and there’s nothing in there about an instant check. Let me...
ANDREW ARULANANDAM: Way back when, you were known as Handgun Control Inc., which was the name that you since dropped.
ERIC HOWARD: I’d like to clarify a few points here.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me just reintroduce you, Eric Howard, spokesperson for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Andrew Arulanandam spokesperson for the National Rifle Association. Eric Howard?
ERIC HOWARD: Thank you. First of all it isn’t us pointing out that this is a serious problem and will allow hundreds of criminals, felons and stalkers to keep their guns. It is the independent investigative arm of Congress that investigated this after Ashcroft originally made the proposal. And they determined that just within six months, hundreds of individuals who are prohibited purchasers will be armed, and this is only one provision that is in this omnibus bill. There are three others that really concern us, and it’s part of the gun industry, and the gun lobbies defense against a story that they are really unhappy that is being told. It’s being told partly by Robert Ricker, who was a former N.R.A. Lobbyist, a top gun industry lobbyist, and the story that he hold when he testified in court is that the industry is knowingly funneling weapons into the illegal market.
ANDREW ARULANANDAM: In response to that, Amy, I would like to say that Eric is completely off the mark. Either he does not know the law, or he is intentionally trying to deceive your listeners. Because the law states under the national instant check system, which was signed into law by none other than President Clinton that records of law abiding citizens should be destroyed instantly. Again, I cannot emphasize this enough: The universe of records that are in question over here are the approvals. These are the records of law abiding Americans. And I don’t know how else to say this, the N.R.A. has no problems with law enforcement maintaining the records of disapprovals of criminals for as long as they need. So, I guess I’m at a loss as to why Eric continues to push this propaganda and his organization as well continues to push this propaganda of deceit. To be perfectly honest, I think this is a desperation tactic. They have failed at this.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Let me ask Eric Howard a second. Why would the need for more than 24 hours... is it that the 24-hour time would not allow sufficient time to catch anybody whose background should not allow them to hold a gun permit?
ERIC HOWARD: There are actually a couple of reasons that the GEO cited. One of them is that. After an individual is charged, it takes time for the case–the case they have cited, which happens quite often, is a domestic violence abuser is charged, but the information isn’t in the system yet. And the individual goes, buys the gun, and nothing–it doesn’t get flagged. He succeeds in buying his gun because the system hasn’t made it up yet to the federal level. And then often these individuals seeing that they were able to succeed the first time go back a second time. But during that second time, they go for the sale. It’s now in the system, and it flags them.
AMY GOODMAN: Alright, we have to wrap up this discussion. I want to thank you both for being there. A National Rifle Association spokesperson, as well as a spokesperson for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Two people who couldn’t have more opposed views, Eric Howard and Andrew Arulanandam. Michael Moore points out in one of his letters and in his book, John Ashcroft is still prohibiting the F.B.I. from looking through the gun background check files to see if any of the nineteen highjackers or associates purchased any weapons prior to 9-11. Because that he said, we are told, would violate these terrorists sacred Second Amendment rights. I don’t think most people in the country understand that. By the way Michael Moore will be joining us on Democracy Now! And if people have questions for him you can email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call and record a message at 212-209-2999.